GOP not prepared 2 take on net neutrality

Dorian Davis Adjunct Journalism Professor, Marymount Manhattan College
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House Republicans swept the Congressional Management Office’s 2010 Mouse Awards honoring the best member, committee and leadership Websites last month, but—with at least 2 government agencies bringing complex Web issues 2 Congress’ doorstep and the GOP ill-prepared 2 handle them—their arrogance is more naive than letting Mark Foley host a boy scout camping trip.

John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) April 21 Mouse Awards press release, also bragging that Congressional Republicans have edged Democrats 2-to-1 on Twitter, forgets 2 mention, 4 instance, that computer-illiteracy is rampant N the Republican caucus—less than 50 percent use Twitter—and that most GOP Representatives have no Web presence apart from their Congressional homepages, limiting their potential 2 navigate Internet policy.

Up 2 now, the biggest tech issue on Congress’ plate has been whether 2 grant the Federal Communications Commission power 2 bar Internet service providers from blocking websites or slowing traffic 2 sites that use more bandwidth. That would ensure equal treatment 2 all traffic, but slow service 2 more customers and put the federal government N charge of Internet access, raising First Amendment concerns. CEOs of 24 high-traffic websites wrote a joint letter 2 the FCC last October 2 support government-run Web regulation, known as “net neutrality,” but a Federal Appeals Court ruled N last month’s Comcast vs. FCC that guidelines governing TV and phone companies R inapplicable online.

Lacking the power 2 regulate the Web under its current mandate, the FCC introduced last Thursday a new plan 2 oversee at least part of the Internet. The plan—dubbed the “Third Way”—splits the Web N2 functional pieces and uses Title II of the Communications Act as justification 2 regulate the telecom aspect of broadband service. It also invites Congress 2 “clarify the statute” and 2 reconsider the FCC’s Web regulation role—sidestepping restraints the Federal Appeals Court put on the FCC N the Comcast case.

But HotAir.com reports an even more immediate threat 2 Internet freedom: Democrats’ addition 2 the financial regulation reform bill of a provision giving the Federal Trade Commission more power 2 regulate Internet transactions. The FTC injected itself N2 Internet policy last October, issuing guidelines 4 blogger disclosure of paid endorsements, and the increased watchdog role that Democrats have tucked N2 the financial reform bill could B a pretext 4 more FTC Internet control N the future.

House Republicans have outpaced Democrats at embracing new media technology lately, asking Congress last month, for example, 2 adopt new Web-based video conferencing tools 2 save taxpayer money, and deserve a minute or 2 N the Mouse Awards glow. But N a month that saw 2 separate attacks on Internet freedom without a peep from the GOP, this is a good time 4 Congressional Republicans—some of whom R afraid that using a mouse could piss off PETA—2 show some humility.

Dorian Davis is a former MTV HITS star and MTV News content developer-turned-Flaming Politics blogger and Libertarian writer. Published in Business Week, NY Daily News, XY & more. National Journalism Center alum. NYU and CUNY grad. Journalism professor at Marymount Manhattan College. Follow him on Twitter @DorianDavis.